Like the incendiary domestic melodrama of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? framed in a Pinter-esque narrative mindfuck and spiked with piercing questions of race, class, and gender, John G. Young’s The Reception is a fresh and uncompromising account of emotional self- immolation and romantic flux. And it has a happy ending to boot.
Essentially a tale of two couples (give or take a gormless suitor and mock spouse or two), The Reception focuses on Martin (Wayne Lamont Sims), a nonproducing, psychically numb, gay African American painter who’s sequestered himself in the upstate New York farmhouse of well-off white dipso depressive Jeannette (Pamela Holden Stewart). He absorbs her drunken abuse in exchange for the companionship and remote digs, and successfully ignores his own unhappiness until Jeannette’s estranged daughter, Sierra (Margaret Burkwit), and her new, also black husband, Andrew (the phenomenally versatile Darien Sills-Evan), turn up unexpectedly. Like Martin and Jeannette’s relationship—to all appearances a comfortable marriage with no more than the average potential for ugly collapse—Sierra and Andrew’s entanglement
is not quite what it seems, and the foursome’s hidden longings and simmering resentments spew to the surface posthaste.
Young’s previous effort, Parallel Sons, is already a decade old, and it’s tempting to believe he spent the intervening years crafting the jarringly complex (but never cheaply illogical) story twists that make this follow-up so lively and demanding. But what really sets The Reception apart—in addition to Derek Wiesehahn’s admirably innovative DV compositions —are the risky social themes and bracing tenderness that underlie its plot formalities.